08 November 2012

The torture of striving for perfection

“There are two kinds of perfect: The one you can never achieve, and the other, by just being yourself.”

~ Lauren King

Nothing proves how much you really want something like the feeling when you're rejected.

I feel like I'm just not working hard enough. That I'm not someone's ideal. That I want the chance to prove myself, more than the constraints allowed me to. Look at me, I'm worthy. I'm giving you all my circus tricks. No ok, you don't see what I see in me. I wish I hadn't tried.

When things are going really well, I have a fear of failure. I talk myself out of doing something because rejection may ruin the flow of good things. Footballer Cristiano Ronaldo once said “I'm living a dream I never want to wake up from." And I am loving life right now. I don't want to ruin this. I don't want disappointment to cloud my sunshine. I want to be buoyant and brightly shining. I am not one of those people styling their life for social media, but I am aware that by having created this good life, I could easily throw something in the mix that sours life. Is that too self absorbed? Unrealistic? Too safe? Too fearful? Probably.

Us creative types, maybe we are our own worst enemy. You can't measure perfection from creativity. It's not like being a mathematician or a scientist where there is a formula for the perfect answer. Creativity doesn't happen with a formula. And we are the worst of all our critics.

I don't ask someone to do something because they may say no. I hesitate about applying for a job because I worry I won't get an interview or the job. I procrastinate on starting a piece of writing (usually for elsewhere, not here) because I fear it won't move people. I don't look at my bank balance until I go to pay my rent because I believe I should have my shit together by now (but the coins are finally stacking up!). I don't tell someone I love them in case they don't love me back.

Which I guess means I don't want to step outside of my comfort zone. Which is silly, because to get where I am at this very moment, I have stepped out of my comfort zone. Like a dog chasing its tail. Seeking perfection when I should always aim for excellence.

Eventually I do start, but it's usually with trepidation. And then I realise I can, it wasn't that bad, it wasn't that hard, I am not a failure.

I know I will never fit a mould. It just comes with being different. And I know I shouldn't try force myself into these moulds. I can run my own race, even if it's not the race outsiders think should be run. Climbing the hierarchy in a pressed suit is not for me, and leadership isn't only a six figure salary, no matter how much I try to convince myself.

But I want to be good at everything. I want the things I do to be perfect. And sometimes that is torturous.


I wrote down all my achievements on paper. They came to 3000 words and then some. They may not have been perfect for the purpose, but they're perfect for where I want to be. And they're excellent for where I am.

I believe in me. It's time to take this self belief and turn these dreams into plans.



  1. That last line... "I believe in me". Until you reach that point you are fighting YOU. I know I was. Finding your mojo - that's the key. Yours is here in spades!!

    I know you can do whatever you really set your mind to.

    1. Thank you so much for that wonderful reassurance BB. It's funny that as much as we believe in ourselves, we often feel
      Guilty that we're not meeting the expectations of others.
      Thank you x

  2. Hi C

    I am not a perfectionist, and subscribe to near enough is good enough because I know I can never get things perfect!

    I think you do a very good job of being true to yourself and striving for success!

    I agree that you can achieve whatever you set your mind to!


  3. You have articulated how I often feel so well Carly. Almost paralysed by not wanting things to go badly but isn't it more of a failure if you don't try than if you give it your all, no matter how it turns out.
    I loved this post!

  4. I'm a new reader. Hi! I just wanted to say that this post is basically a copy of one of my most frequent inner monologues. Good to know I'm not alone, sad to know other people feel all those things too. Thank you for expressing it. :)

  5. it's something i've been thinking about a lot lately. it took my therapist pointing out to me - "you're scared of pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone, but when you have, you've not just coped but thrived and never been happier. the more you do it, the less scary it is to do it again next time."

    i've only really just realised life is too short not to try things we want to do but are afraid of doing. it's annoying that the negative thoughts come so much easier than positive ones due to our brain makeup, but it's amazing how strong the mind is and what you can do if you try to push the scary thoughts away.

    i think you seem like such a strong person carly and the kind of person who could do anything if you put your mind to it. x

  6. Perfection is over rated. You're much better off just being the best person you can possibly be, while keeping a clear conscience and being happy with whatever you are doing. Niggling guilt and rising stress levels just aren't worth it. And why on earth would anyone strive to please everybody else? "They" sure as heck aren't going crazy trying to please you.

  7. Hi Carly

    Long time reader, but never posted a comment.

    I live with a multitude of health problems that make even some simple things very difficult. But I have a thought that I try to live by ........

    "You've got to be in it to win it"

    ie. you'll never get what you want unless you at least try .... os start it.

    Life is really good for you at the moment (which is great!!) and you're scared of anything making you unhappy. But think of this - you're potentially missing out on things by not even starting them. And if you put them off, you may not be in the mood to do them later either because you're a bit unhappy and don't want to do anything that might make you even unhappier. So maybe there are things you'll never do .........

    I don't get the impression that you're an introvert or shy. You must have some kind of confidence to have achieved what you have - even if it's just the public speaking. So it's fear of rejection or failure that's stopping you. But really ........ what's the worst that could happen? Say you don't get an interview or a job. There are potentially dozens of reasons but you are assuming you know. There are thousands of people applying for jobs each day and 98% of them won't get it ...... does that make everyone the same type of person as you? No. In a city of 4.1 milliion (Melbourne) are you going to be the best person for each job you go for? Probably not. So don't short-change yourself.

    I won't post my email address here (in public) but if you're interested in some private emails (and maybe some VoiP/Skype) to just talk things through with someone then I'd love to help you if I can.

    I can just email you my email address via this page here


    ...... so if you're interested just mention it as a "one-liner" in your next blog post which I'll read whenever you post it!!


  8. Lovely post Carly which echoes what many including myself have felt at times. I now subscribe to the notion of holding things very lightly rather than clasping tightly to hopes,dreams, desires whatever. It certainly not about pushing them away but rather that holding these things gently nutures our selves and allows that constant judgement and beatups to self to gently fade away.
    Kate Bx

  9. I think you're doing really well stepping out of your comfort zone. I don't so much step out of my comfort zone as fall out. Every now and then I look around me and think "Hang on, how did I get here?!"

    Just keep swimming xx


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